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common mistakes small business owners make, he laughed. “Maybe I’ve failed to take my own medicine!” “At an early stage, you need a passion-

ate founder to drive a project. But once you’ve reached a certain stage you need a strong team of ‘doers’ to build systems and allow the thing to grow. I have that now.” But despite his determination Tim

hasn’t been afraid to change course where necessary. In 2007 he also spoke of his plan to launch a new line of male grooming products, drawing on his experience of heading up Amstrad’s beauty arm. He subsequently abandoned the idea in favour of setting up a marketing and events consultancy, Campbell Esquire, out of which came the Apprentice Speakers business, which supplies former stars of the show – including Tim himself – as motivational speakers. Tim thinks one of the biggest changes

affecting start ups has been the effect of the Internet. “Businesses can now grow phenomenally quickly in a short space of time.” However, he is sceptical about the

Government’s emphasis on high-growth businesses at the expense of start up support. “The Government is in a difficult position,” he says. “There’s no money, but it needs to support new start ups.” Looking ahead, he says the Bright Ideas

Trust is investigating ways of meeting the changing needs of the young people it helps. He says they are seeing more people who aren’t ready to start up when they come to the Trust, and that’s prompted the introduction of a training element to complement the investment side of things. He also wants to encourage more of those individuals to team up in order to start new enterprises together. “The idea that entrepreneurs do it all

on their own is a fallacy,” he says. The importance of a strong team seems to be one of the stand-out lessons Tim has drawn from the last seven years – but there’s no doubt that his personal drive and hard work has been instrumental in building the Trust into what it is today.

“At the time, I thought losing the business would be the worst possible thing that could happen,” says Rachel. “But I now look back and realise that I had to let the business go to let new things happen. “These days I’m not making as much

money as in my Red Letter Days era, but I’m much more fulfilled.” With the experience of losing Red

RACHEL ELNAUGH, business mentor and founder of Red Letter Days

how she’d spent the previous 16 years building her company, Red Letter Days, into a leading brand. But just weeks after the article was published, the business hit the headlines for very different reasons: it had gone into administration. “Right until the last minute an entrepre-


neur is optimistic,” Rachel says. “Literally to the last hour I was exploring rescue options.”

So what went wrong? Rachel traces the

problems back to 2002, when she brought in a team of consultants to help take the business to the next level. They devised a strategy and suggested she take on a CEO. “At that point I had a crisis in confidence,” she recalls. “I thought ‘maybe I need an expert’”. From that point on, she says, the culture at the company changed from being about providing great experiences to focusing on growth. Rachel describes 2003 as an annus

horribilis – the company over-spent, there were accounting issues, and they missed their sales target. According to Rachel, one of the biggest problems was that her bank was holding all the cash the company took by credit card; the tragedy was that the business could have kept going if they could have accessed that money. But by 2005 the administrators had moved in.

n August 2005, Better Business interviewed Rachel Elnaugh about

Letter Days firmly behind her, Rachel has been mentoring businesses for eight years now. Most of her clients are small businesses, which she likes. “The bigger a business gets, the more it starts to lose its magic,” she says. “It becomes more cumbersome, less able to shift and change, and that’s why they run into problems.” She thinks that one of the big challenges

facing small businesses at the moment is the flow of cash. “The money has definitely slowed down; people are holding onto money and not passing it on.” But she doesn’t think the current economic climate is necessarily a bad thing for small businesses. “A lot of issues around businesses and

entrepreneurs who struggle are to do with mindset. There’s never a good or a bad time to be in business; there are always opportunities to make money – it’s about a mentality,” she says. Rachel believes that technology poses

both challenges and opportunities for new start ups. “Everything is shifting so fast now,” she says, pointing out that when Red Letter Days started no-one had a mobile phone. They relied on word-of- mouth recommendations – “coffee mornings where people discussed brochures they’d got through the post” – and it took ten years to build a solid follow- ing. “These days it would take a year,” she says. “But it’s still crowded, and it’s still about how you stand out.” Building a business “isn’t ever easy,

otherwise everyone would be doing it,” Rachel points out. But Rachel’s enthusiasm for business hasn’t waned. “It’s still fascinating to see what works and what is successful. How do you hit upon something that captures the imagination?” page 20

Better Business No 189


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